House GOP ObamaCare plan focuses on block grants

Greg Nash

House Republican leaders on Wednesday presented their members with the outlines of a plan that would respond to a Supreme Court decision negating federal subsidies that help people buy ObamaCare plans. 

The House GOP plan would give block grants to states that want them as a way to replace the subsidies, according to lawmakers leaving the meeting.

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The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to ObamaCare that would eliminate subsidies to 6.4 million people who receive them on the federal exchange. A decision is expected before the end of the month, and as early as Thursday.

Under the House GOP plan, states would get to choose how to spend the money to cover people in their state. The block grants would last for two years, which would then give a new president a chance to enact a full Republican alternative to ObamaCare. 

The plan, which was presented by Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders rip VA chief over Disneyland comparison Tough choices in Puerto Rico 178 Dems demand end of Planned Parenthood probe MORE (R-Wis.) and other leaders, would also repeal ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates. Ryan declined to comment on the details of the proposal while coming out of the meeting.

“It block grants the money to states that opt-in to our state program, and then they can set up their own exchange, they can give tax credits, they can set up health savings accounts, they can do whatever they want,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said the amount of the block grants to each state would be equal to the amount of money people in the state are currently getting in ObamaCare subsidies. 

Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles BoustanyOvernight Finance: GOP chairman moves to censure IRS chief | Puerto Rico deal close? | Fed eyes June rate hike | Obama's secret meeting with China's richest man Dozens of House members promote tax bills at hearing Lawmakers push back on Obama drug pricing initiative MORE (R-La.) said the plan could include a “safe harbor” to allow people to keep their current ObamaCare subsidies until the end of the year, when the block grants would kick in. 

Boustany said that after two years, ObamaCare would sunset as a whole sometime in 2017. 

“You tee it up for the next president,” he said. 

Fleming, who was tasked with leading planning for the ruling in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, acknowledged conservatives could object. 

“Some feel we shouldn’t do anything, if the subsidies fail they fail,” he said. He said he did not know how many feel that way, and that he himself is keeping “an open mind.”

“A lot of members had questions,” Boustany said. “This is the first time they're hearing all the details.”